The Ryan Opera Center returns to the airwaves! The Ryan Opera Center launches the ninth season of its recital broadcast series with Chicago's 98.7WFMT

The Patrick G. and Shirley W. Ryan Opera Center provides unique value to Lyric Opera of Chicago. While fulfilling its mission to nurture the talents of the next generation of leading artists, the company’s artist-development program also enables Lyric to connect with a wider audience. Its Ensemble members appear in multiple roles for mainstage productions, participate in concerts at Lyric and elsewhere, build relationships with donors and with other patrons and artists, and more.

One of the most unique opportunities provided to the Ensemble is the Ryan Opera Center’s monthly broadcast recital series with WFMT 98.7, in which Ensemble members record selections for each program, which is then aired and streamed globally. Normally, the recordings take place at the radio station's studio, but this year, due to safety protocols, an alternative location was needed. Thanks to some creative solutions, the recordings have moved backstage at Lyric. The 2020/21 series is just about to start, enabling audiences around the world to hear from Lyric artists this season.

Ryan Opera Center pianist, Chris Reynolds, setting up for a 2020/21 Ensemble WFMT recording backstage at Lyric.

Some years back, WFMT’s then general manager, Steve Robinison, approached Lyric with the idea to feature Ryan Opera Center Ensemble members in a broadcast recital series. In the fall of 2012, the series was ready for launch, with nine original programs aired monthly over twelve months (three programs are repeated). Eight years later, the 2020/21 broadcasts can be heard on the first Sunday of every month at 7:00pm CT.

From the start, the series has been made possible through the generous support of Julie and Roger Baskes. Julie Baskes was president of the Ryan Opera Center Board when the series began, and she continues to serve as a board officer as well as on the Executive Committee of Lyric’s Board of Directors. Thanks to the Baskes’s ongoing generosity, the WFMT broadcast recital series is entering its ninth season.

When the series was announced in 2012, Anthony Freud, Lyric’s general director, president and CEO, said this: “One of the early conversations I had with [the station] upon my arrival at Lyric was about creating a broadcast recital series for the Ryan Opera Center. We were both tremendously enthusiastic about the idea, and thanks to the very generous support of Julie and Roger Baskes, it is being brought to fruition, enabling us to share with a worldwide audience the tremendous talent and artistry of our Ryan Opera Center singers.”

Since its inception, the Ryan Opera Center WFMT broadcast recital series has featured countless memorable performances by the exceptionally talented rising stars of the Ensemble, many of whom now enjoy major international careers. Each month, a different combination of Ryan Opera Center artists perform solo, duet, and/or ensemble selections that can be enjoyed throughout the Chicago area and by Lyric lovers around the world. Colin Ure, a freelance dramaturg based in Chicago, is the host for the series, providing insights into the selections chosen for each performance, as well as profiles of the artists.

Ryan Opera Center mezzo-soprano Katherine Beck and pianist Chris Reynolds after recording their 2020/21 WFMT recital broadcast.

As an added focus for the 2020/21 series, every program will feature selections by a composer of color, as part of a wider Lyric Opera of Chicago initiative to be a more equitable arts organization and celebrate a wider range of artistry. For the time being, the programs are being recorded backstage at Lyric, as the studio at WFMT is not able to be used due to current safety protocols.

The 2020/21 recital series will kick off on Sunday, September 6 and will feature third-year baritone Ricardo José Rivera and first-year mezzo-soprano Katherine Beck, with Ryan Opera Center pianist Chris Reynolds. (This first concert will actually be the last concert of the 2019/20 series, as the last recital was unable to be recorded due to the COVID-19 pandemic.) On Sunday, October 4, audiences will hear from second-year mezzo-soprano Kathleen Felty and first-year tenor Martin Luther Clark, also accompanied by pianist Chris Reynolds

The 2020/21 Ryan Opera Center Ensemble.

Information about the remaining programs for the year can be found here or on Lyric’s Ryan Opera Center Facebook page with tune-in information each month.

Photo credit: Kyle Flubacker